Walsh Jesuit wrestling looks to start climbing back to the top

Michael Leonard
Kent Weeklies
Walsh Jesuit's Dy’Vaire “Boots” VanDyke pins down Crestwood’s Brett Szuhay at last year's Solon Comet Classic. VanDyke is one of two returning state qualifiers for the Warriors.

The wall inside Walsh Jesuit's wrestling room speaks loudly of the Warriors' tradition.

In the 1990s, Walsh was the dominant program in Ohio wrestling. In the 2010, however, those glory days seemed a long way away at time.

Last year, however, coach Dave Mariola Jr. arrived to help rebuild the program.

Mariola paid some immediate dividends, as three Warriors qualified for the state tournament.

"It's was a successful first season," Mariola said. "To get three guys down to states was big for us."

Of course, COVID-19 forced the cancellation of state tournament and disrupted much of the off-season for the Warriors along with every other team.

Despite the pandemic, Mariola said his team has committed to get better as he enters his second season at Walsh.

"We’ve been training for a long time. We’ve been training all summer and all fall," Mariola said. "The kids have been really working hard. We’ve got a good group of kids and a good group of parents. The Walsh family is pretty strong."

Mariola for right now for Walsh "just getting better," acknowledging this season could present more challenges than any other. Walsh will be an independent team this winter, but the pandemic has forced many major tournaments to be cancelled.

"With the COVID now, the schedule is really almost all duals," Mariola said. "I think the wrestlers and the coaches want to have the tournaments, but its about safety. I just think not wrestling in tournaments is going to hurt some kids.

"We were supposed to start at the Solon tournament," he added. "Then it became the Solon quad. Then a week before the season, they couldn't wrestle at all. It’s a crazy time for everything."

Mariola said he will have "close to 20" wrestlers on the team, as he slowly builds Walsh's numbers back up.

"I think last year we only had nine guys," Mariola said. "To double our numbers is big. It’s a slow process."

Walsh has a loaded assistant coaching staff, anchored by Ohio Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Famers Tommy Malkovich and Graham Coghill. Loudon Gordon also is on staff with help from numerous Walsh alummi.

"We’re looking to get some guys to states," Mariola said. "It’s been down but we're trying build it back up.

Walsh's biggest gradation loss was state qualifier Adam Salek.

On of several newcomers in Walsh's room this winter is junior 106-pounder Austin Neel, who has been ranked by state wrestling publications.

"He’s a good kid," Mariola said. "He's starting to get stronger. He's just a really quality wrestler.

Junior 113-pounder Nolan Frye joins the Warriors after taking third place at 106 pounds in Division III his freshman year.

"He's a good training partner with Austin," Mariola said. "He's ready to make a lot of noise."

The starting spot at 120 is up for grabs between freshmen Ricky Holmes and Jonathan Campbell.

After an up-and-down freshman year, sophomore 126-pounder Brian Crevar looks to improve.

"He’s tough," Mariola said.

Last year, Walsh's super freshman Dy'Vaire "Boots" Van Dyke was one of two Walsh wrestlers who reached the state tournament, only to have the tournament cancelled. Mariola notes VanDyke has his eyes fixed on a state title run.

"He’s wrestled all summer,"  He's been the learning new techniques. I think he's ready."

Senior district qualifier Ronnie Romanini will get the start at 138 pounds.

Walsh's other returning state qualifier is 145-pounder Chase Henderson, who made a major improvement last winter.

"He's a good leader for us," Mariola sai.d

After an up-and-down career, Mariola believes senior 152-pounder Zach Wiseman could be due for a breakout season.

Senior 160-pounder Michael Leonard has been a stalwart in the Warriors' lineup the last few years. He's looking to make a run at states as well."

Freshman Brock Sherman could be in for big season, despite starting among the upper weights.

"He’s come a long way," Mariola said. "This summer he did a lot of lifting. He never gives us. He’s a gamer."

Following an excellent season with the Walsh football team, junior 182-pounder Jack Rominini will look to reach districts this season.

The upper weights will continue to be an issue for the Warriors. At present, Walsh has no set starters at 195, 220 and 285 pounds.

It was those forfeits that cost Walsh at the Findlay Duals Dec. 6, which turned into Walsh's opener. Walsh went 2-3 at the dual, but gave a good account of themselves.

"In all our matches but one, we won more bouts than we lost," Mariola said. "Perrysburg was pretty tough."

Walsh will next see action Dec. 18 at the North Canton quad, where it will face Hoover, Stuebenvilel and Nordonia.